Heroes Come in All Shapes and Sizes
When I was born, my parents knew I was going to be very tiny, so they told my older brother Andy that I was his baby sister and he was supposed to take care and watch over me. He took that job very seriously. Andy always protected me. I always felt safe when he was around. We had a very special and close relationship. He was my hero.
Unfortunately for Andy, he was the kind of kid that was always into trouble, practically from the word "Go". He started getting into trouble at a very young age. Stealing, lying--he just couldn't seem to keep his nose clean. Then, around the age of twelve, he discovered drugs, and eventually alcohol. Now he was off and running, and there was no stopping him. I remember as a teen, watching him do his drugs, crying and begging him not to do it. He would always promise me "This is the last time", but it never was. I didn't realize at the time, he had diseases called drug addiction and alcoholism, and they had a strong hold on him.
When he was sober and drug free, Andy was the best brother you could ask for. He had such a big heart, and he would give you the shirt off of his back if he thought you needed it. I even remember times he took the blame for something I had done, so that I wouldn't get into trouble. I'd ask him why he did that, and he's say "it's ok, I'm used to it", I'd want to tell my parents that I was the one that did it, but he never let me.
One incident sticks out in my mind. When I was a teenager, my best friend and I were walking home from school and a car full of older guys pulled up beside us. They were yelling stuff out the windows and they asked us if we wanted to go for a ride. We were scared and said "No". Then one of the guys said "Hey aren't you Baca's little sister?" I said "Yes". He then yelled at the driver, "Let's get out of here, that's Baca's little sister and he'll come after us." They drove off, squealing their tires. I didn't know what any of that meant, but I was just glad they were gone. I could never understand why people were afraid of Andy, because he really wasn't a very tall or strong guy. But I was always grateful he was my big brother, and that he watched over me.
As his disease progressed, so did his troubles. When he was old enoug,h he joined the Army. I often wondered if it was just to stay out of jail. He got stationed in Korea. I remember times when he would call me from a pay phone. He'd say: "I just need to hear you laugh". That brings tears to my eyes, because I know he missed me and he wanted to feel close. I missed him like crazy. I wanted my big brother home.
While he was in Korea, Andy met his future wife and they had two beautiful children. Andy was so proud. He loved his kids with all his heart. He wanted to be a good dad, and he tried, but things got messed up, and his disease progressed to the point of no return. His wife separated from him and eventually the state took away his kids. That broke his heart. He was never the same after that. He tried to go on. He fought for visitation and sometimes Child Protective Services let him see his kids, and sometimes they didn't. There was no rhyme or reason as to how or why they did what they did. He just had to take what he could get.
Andy felt like he was losing his kids, and it was breaking his heart. I think in his mind, he felt like he couldn't live without them. Finally one day when he was drunk and high, and very depressed, he decided that he couldn't do it anymore. He thought his kids would be better off without him, so he took his own life. I was devastated, I still needed him, and so did his kids, but the pain and disease was stronger than our love.
So he went home to be with Jesus at the young age of 26. Even though he's been gone for over 30 years, I still miss him, and he is still my hero. It helps knowing that he didn't leave because he didn't love us. He had a disease and it took him, and I pray that he finally found peace in his heart.